Watch Out For These Aggressive (But Popular) Dog Breeds

When most people adopt a dog, they want a new best friend, not a fighter. To prevent this risk, some owners may seek “non-aggressive” dog breeds. However, statistics vary wildly when it comes to dog breed aggression. Canine behavior varies based on the owner and how researchers define “aggression.” Nonetheless, these statistics label the most dangerous dog breeds, from tiny toy dogs to police dogs to the most popular dog in America for 28 years straight. Here are the most aggressive dog breeds; take each with a grain of salt.

Dachshunds Are Hunters

A dachshund bites at a competitor during a race.
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While Dachshunds may be small, they’ll still bite if they’re provoked. As hunter dogs, Dachshunds can naturally turn aggressive if they aren’t socialized or trained properly. Researchers from the University of Pennsylvania labeled Dachshunds as the most aggressive breed, especially toward their owners and other dogs.

According to a 2005 study, Dachshunds are the third most likely breed to bite children under the age of 17. They attacked at least 22 children and young adults from 1994 to 2003.

Are Pit Bulls As Bad As Their Reputation?

A pit bull with a muzzle lays between its owner's legs.
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ATTILA KISBENEDEK/AFP via Getty Images

The myth that Pit Bulls are aggressive has some statistical backing. According to DogBite.org’s 13-year study, pit bulls were involved in 66% of America’s fatal dog attacks. Researchers also bring up some evidence that aggressive people are more likely to own “aggressive” breeds, according to Forbes.

Sadly, this reputation is endangering Pit Bulls’ lives. The breed is illegal in 10 states, and as a result, many of these dogs get put down in shelters. Plus, the American Academy of Pediatrics did not find the same aggression from Pit Bulls int their study.

Chihuahuas Are More Aggressive Than Pit Bulls

A chihuahua and miniature pinscher mix growls while guarding his ball.
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Peter Kneffel/picture alliance via Getty Images

In 2016, the website Dognition asked subscribers to rate how aggressively their dogs acted. The results became a study that provided some fascinating insight. During the poll, owners consistently ranked Pit Bulls as the least aggressive dogs, while Chihuahuas were considered the most aggressive.

These findings line up with other studies, too. The American Temperament Test Society pinpointed Chihuahuas as one of the most aggressive dogs, and a 2008 study recorded more attacks from Chihuahuas than Dobermans.

How German Shepherds Make Fierce Police Dogs

A German Shepherd growls in the snow.
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Reddit/u/Grimwmwmw

In 2016, German Shepherds became the second most popular dog breed in the U.S., according to the American Kennel Club. Their loyalty and intelligence are unmatched, which could be why owners don’t expect German Shepherds to bite. But they do.

In 2005, the American Academy of Pediatrics published a study recording which breeds bite children (under 17) most often. Underneath cross breeds, German Shepherds had the most recorded bites on the list: 105 within nine years.

Border Collies Are “Frequent Biters”

A female Border Collie snarls through the fence to defend her territory.
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Border Collies aren’t typically labeled as aggressive dogs, but attacks can happen. Reports of Border Collie maulings hit the news in 2010, 2014, and 2015. But those are vicious attacks that are considered news-worthy; nonfatal bites from Border Collies happen much more frequently.

The American Veterinary Medical Association labeled Border Collies as “frequent biters.” Statistics in 2005 recorded at least ten attacks on children within nine years, making Border Collies the fifth most likely breed to bite children.

The Most Popular Dogs, Labrador Retrievers, Have A Downside

A black labrador retriever holds an antler next to a hunter.
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Dennis Anderson/Star Tribune via Getty Images

In 2018, the American Kennel Club listed Labrador Retrievers as the most popular dog breed in America–for the 28th year in a row. The commonness of this dog may explain why so many of them bite people per year.

From 2005 to 2017, Labrador Retrievers became the fourth most aggressive dogs, according to DogBite.org. They caused nine fatal attacks over 13 years. In terms of children, Labrador Retrievers were the third most frequent biters with 484 cases over nine years.

Are Doberman Pinschers Aggressive?

A doberman bites at a man's arm during training.
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RDB/ullstein bild via Getty Images

Doberman Pinschers have received a reputation as fierce fighters, and statistics slightly back up these claims. Of the ten dogs most likely to cause a fatal attack, Dobermans were the lowest on the list. In terms of biting children, Dobermans were also one of the least likely, with only eight cases over nine years.

The American Veterinary Medical Association reports a stronger correlation between Dobermans and aggression. According to their surveys, Dobermans are one of the most likely breeds to turn violent.

The Feisty Personality Of Jack Russell Terriers

Kelsey Grammer snarls at a Jack Russell Terrier he's holding.
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Deborah Feingold/Corbis via Getty Images

Those who want a small dog with a big attitude may adopt a Jack Russell Terrier. After analyzing surveys from dog owners, the American Veterinary Medical Association listed Jack Russell Terriers as the seventh most violent dog breed.

According to the American Academy of Pediatrics, Terriers have bitten more children and adolescents than most other breeds. Over nine years, Terriers conducted 15 attacks against children. This is why Jack Russell Terriers need proper training.

Bullmastiffs Can Be Fierce

Actor Jens Atzorn walks with a bullmastiff through a tunnel.
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Jens Kalaene/picture alliance via Getty Images

Despite their kind expressions, Bullmastiffs have broad, strong muscles–making an attack from them seem terrifying. Of all the dog breeds, Bullmastiffs are the sixth most aggressive; they caused 14 fatal attacks over 13 years, according to DogBite.

When we tally bites instead of fatalities, the number rises. The American Kennel Club recorded the known dog breed attacks from 1982 to 2009. During that time, Bullmastiffs attacked at least 37 victims, most of whom were adults.

Rottweilers Have Risen In Popularity

A rottweiler bares its teeth.
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According to the Seattle Times, Rottweilers have significantly risen in popularity since 1997. Yet their aggressive nature has a seemingly contradictory statistical backing. DogBite records Rottweilers as the second most vicious breed with 45 fatalities over 13 years.

However, the American Kennel Association reports fewer over a longer time; from 1982 to 2009, they reported only 67 Rottweiler-related deaths. During the American Academy of Pediatrics study, Rottweilers were far down the list of dogs who bite children.

Siberian Huskies May Bite

A Siberian husky growls at a competitor during a race.
Dmitry FeoktistovTASS via Getty Images
Dmitry FeoktistovTASS via Getty Images

As adorable as Siberian Huskies are, they can bite as well as any other big dog. A study by Philadelphia lawyers documented more Husky attacks than most other breeds. Over 12 years, Huskies caused 13 fatalities in the U.S.

According to Frank Coote, a dog warden for the Irish Society for Prevention of Cruelty to Animals, large dogs always pose a risk to children, regardless of breed. Huskies may nip at their owners or other dogs if they’re handled roughly.

Although Small, Shi Tzus Can Attack

A shi tzu with a pink bandana holds in a large stick in the yard.
Flickr/Tricia Hall
Flickr/Tricia Hall

At less than a foot tall, Shi Tzus may not seem like a threat. According to a survey by the Medical University of Graz, Shi Tzus are fairly likely to bite at children and young adults. However, they were relatively low on the list of aggressive dogs at number 17.

That said, small dogs are sometimes more likely to attack than larger dogs. During a study published in 2012, smaller dogs “attacked sooner and with greater intensity” than larger dogs.

Alaskan Malamutes Are Similar To Huskies

A man races on a sled driven by Alaskan malamutes.
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Ian Forsyth/Getty Images

Alaskan Malamutes are closely related to Siberian Huskies, and the two can easily be mixed up. Hence, the two share similar aggressive tendencies. According to one study, Malamutes cause seven bites per 100,000 owned. That’s more than any other dog breed recorded in that research.

Research by Philadelphia Hill & Associates told a similar story. According to them, Malamutes caused 12 maulings and hundreds of other injuries within nine years. Malamutes require training to prevent aggression.

Boxers, Bred For Fighting

A boxer mix shows off his underbite.
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During the nineteenth century, Boxers were bred for dogfighting and hunting. Although they make friendly and loyal pets, a Boxer bite can cause some severe damage. According to DogBite.org’s report, Boxers caused at least seven fatalities between 2005 and 2017.

In 2008, a study in Applied Animal Behaviour Science pinpointed that most Boxer attacks are against other dogs and not against their owners. If provoked, and without proper training, they may bite other people.

Chow Chows May Viciously Defend

A chow chow dog named Mr Raffles is on a leach near steel pillars.
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OLI SCARFF/AFP via Getty Images

Although Chow Chows have declined in popularity, they’re still beloved guard dogs. From 1982 to 2009, there were almost 1,600 Chow Chows registered in the U.S. Of those, at least 49 dogs attacked people, resulting in seven deaths, according to the American Kennel Club.

As hunting and guard dogs, Chow Chows can become aggressive if they or their owners are threatened. According to Liljegren Law Group, Chow Chows don’t attack as often as they defend. Out of 238 dog attacks, Chow Chows caused eight of them.

American Bulldogs Are As Fierce As They Look

An American bulldog on a leash is seen standing.
Pinterest/Alison Lariviere Eldridge
Pinterest/Alison Lariviere Eldridge

Since 2013, Bulldogs have remained within the top five most popular breeds in America. However, if a Bulldog is threatened or not properly socialized, it may bite. According to DogBite, American Bulldogs have caused the fifth most fatalities of all dogs in the U.S.

Like Pit Bulls, Bulldogs have gained a reputation as an “aggressive” dog because of their fierce look. Researchers from the University of Bristol stated that an owner’s personality predicted dog aggression more than the breed. Unfortunately, vicious owners tend to adopt stereotypically aggressive dogs.

Double-Check Saint Bernards

Two Saint Bernard rescue dogs sit in the snowy mountains.
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FABRICE COFFRINI/AFP via Getty Images

A large dog may intimidate a lot of people, and Saint Bernards definitely make the cut. According to research by the Journal of the AVMA, Saint Bernards bite more than most other dog breeds. Pet Help also listed Saint Bernards as one of the more violent dogs in America.

Experts believe that Saint Bernards descended from the Alpine Mastiff, which is also an aggressive breed. In most cases, however, Saint Bernards are easygoing dogs who get along with children.

Labradors May Attack Postmen

A handler trains a black Labrador for the role of rescue dog.
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Artyom GeodakyanTASS via Getty Images

Although not as popular as their cross-breed, the Labrador Retriever, Labradors are still highly beloved dogs. In 2016, Animal Pets conducted a study on which breeds were most likely to attack postmen. Labradors landed in the top three.

In another study, Labradors carried out 27 attacks on humans over 13 years. This classified them as the tenth most aggressive dog breed. Attacks mostly came from Labradors who were not watched, leashed, or were contained to a yard or house.

Take Care With A Shar-Pei

A white shar pei is seen.
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Marka/Universal Images Group via Getty Images

Like many dogs bred for hunting, Shar-Peis can still have some fight in them. In particular, this breed is known for acting territorial and unfriendly if they are not properly socialized, and studies reflect this.

Research in the New Zealand Veterinary Journal stated vets’ opinions about certain dog breeds, and they classified Shar-Peis as “very aggressive.” These votes were backed up by the American Temperament Test Society, who ranked Shar-Peis within the top seven most aggressive dog breeds.

Let’s Look At Poodles

An owner holds up his overweight poodle.
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Poodles of any size are popular dog breeds. Intelligent, loyal, and friendly, poodles aren’t generally considered to be aggressive dogs, but they can be. According to the American Academy of Pediatrics, Poodles are included in the top ten aggressive dogs toward children.

Research in 2008 indicates that most poodle attacks focus on other dogs. Plus, the American Temperament Test Society found that most poodles succeed at the aggression test with a 75% – 87% pass rate.

“Wolf” Is In The Name: Wolfdog

Two wolfdogs bit at each other while running across grass.
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Mikel Bilbao /VW Pics/Universal Images Group via Getty Images

As a wolf and domestic dog mix, Wolfdogs require experienced training to tame and socialize. Because they aren’t as common as German Shepherds and Rottweilers, the number of attacks they initiate carries more weight.

From 2005 to 2018, over 5,000 dog attacks occurred in the U.S. Wolfdogs were responsible for 111 of those attacks. According to research, they are the sixth most likely to bite of any dog breed. Scientists still haven’t concluded how much training Wolfdogs need to avoid attacks.

Akitas Used To Hunt Bears

An akita runs across a green slanted roof.
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Marka/Universal Images Group via Getty Images

Akitas are tall, fluffy dogs that hunted bears in ancient Japan. That makes their bite all the more dangerous. According to a 2019 consensus, Akitas are the seventh most likely breed to turn violent, with 70 attacks over 32 years.

The American Kennel Club recorded more vicious behavior: around 48 Akita attacks over 37 years. Like most breeds, most Akita aggression is directed at other dogs, but they need to be trained to prevent violence against people.

Australian Cattle Dogs Can Be Vicious

A dog owner catches her Blue Heeler as the dog catches a frisbee.
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MARK RALSTON/AFP via Getty Images

As a herding breed, Australian Cattle Dogs don’t have a violent reputation, but they can have feisty temperaments. In 2008, researchers reported that Cattle Dogs had the most instances of stranger aggression right behind Dachshunds. Dog aggression was much higher at 28 documented cases.

During an earlier study, Cattle Dogs displayed aggression against humans in over 9% of trials. Even the Australian Cattle Dog Rescue Association has admitted that aggression is the number one complaint they hear about.

Are Great Danes Gentle Giants?

A Great Dane plays with his handler.
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SAM PANTHAKY/AFP via Getty Images

Great Danes are known as “gentle giants” for their playful, affectionate nature. But in aggression statistics, Great Danes have frequently landed within the top 30 breeds. From 2005 to 2018, Great Danes caused 37 reported attacks, landing them as the 14th most vicious dog breed.

Research in Applied Animal Behaviour Science tells a different story. Great Danes did not meet the aggressive threshold that most other breeds did, and most recorded attacks were against other dogs.

Other Breeds Pale When Compared To The German Spitz

A German Spitz rests on a bed.
Twitter/@AcademicChatter
Twitter/@AcademicChatter

German Spitzes are dogs who stick to their owner’s hip. However, if they aren’t socialized or trained properly, they can become violent. In 2015, a study in Scientific Reports said that Spitzes act more viciously toward strangers than herding dogs (like Golden Retrievers) do.

During another study by the American Academy of Pediatrics, Spitzes bit children more often than Rottweilers, Bernese, and Beagles. Around 2% of the Spitzes recorded ended up biting at their owners.

Don’t Underestimate Schnauzers

An owner reads a biology textbook with her miniature schnauzer.
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Ron Bull/Toronto Star via Getty Images

Schnauzers come in many colors and sizes, but all of them are known as fun-loving, affectionate dogs. That doesn’t erase their tendency to bite, however. The American Temperament Test Society ranked Schnauzers as one of the top seven aggressive dog breeds.

According to research on dog attacks on children, Schnauzers were ranked the tenth most likely to bite. Based on the pool of dogs they tested, 1.5% of Schnauzers acted aggressively towards their owners in that period.

Cocker Spaniels Are Worse Than Rottweilers

A black cocker spaniel leaps at the camera in a garden.
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Ina Fassbender/picture alliance via Getty Images

Although Cocker Spaniels reached their peak popularity in the 1940s, they remain beloved pets to this day. They aren’t known as aggressive dogs, but this assumption has been challenged by research. In 1991, researchers stated that Cocker Spaniels displayed aggression against humans in nearly 6% of tests–more often than Rottweilers did.

During another study, only 2% of Cocker Spaniels bit children within 17 years. This accounted for five Cocker Spaniel attacks in the test. But with proper care and training, Cocker Spaniels shouldn’t grow aggressive.

Statistics About Beagles Vary

A Beagle bites at a chew toy in the grass.
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ROBYN BECK/AFP via Getty Images

Studies about Beagle aggression have been mixed. During a study by the Medical University of Graz, researchers stated that Beagles bit owners as often as Rottweilers did. This study only recorded attacks against children under age 17.

However, a 2017 study in PLoS One tells a different story. While observing adopted laboratory Beagles, the scientists saw no signs of aggression. It seems that, like every other dog breed, Beagles only become aggressive during certain circumstances.

Yes, Even Pembroke Welsh Corgis Have A Dark Side

Corgis race.
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MARK RALSTON/AFP via Getty Images

According to the New York Post, Corgis have been skyrocketing in popularity. But as herding dogs, Pembroke Welsh Corgis won’t always step away from a dog fight. In 1996, vets who were interviewed labeled Corgis as “very aggressive.” They considered Corgis more aggressive than Boxers, Dobermans, and Border Collies.

However, like every other dog breed, aggression in Corgis is rare. There is little evidence beyond this study that Corgis are a typically violent breed. Train your dog well, and they will likely be friendly.

Pekingese May Cause Problems

A pekingese dog is seen.
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According to the American Academy of Pediatrics, Pekingese can be more aggressive than Rottweilers and Dobermans. Out of 113 dogs tested, 10 of them bit their child owners, which is about 3% of all Pekingese.

However, a different study contradicted this. According to 2019 research in the International Journal of Pediatric Otorhinolaryngology, Pekingese are one of the least likely dogs to bite their owners in the face. As with every dog breed, their temperament largely depends on their owners.